‘Words’ was one of the last poems Sylvia Plath wrote before her tragic suicide in February 1963. (Plath would kill herself on 11 February 1963, in a London apartment she had decided to rent because W. B. Yeats had once lived there; ‘Words’ was written on 1 February.) You can read Plath’s poem ‘Words’ here before proceeding to our analysis below.
As the poem’s title implies, ‘Words’ is a meditation on the very stuff of poetry, although it is neither wholly favourable nor wholly damning about the power of words. We begin, in summary, with a single word: ‘Axes’. Its plural picking up on the poem’s plural title, ‘Axes’ immediately invites us to draw a link between title and opening line: words are axes, in that they are cutting, powerful, but also potentially deadly. After one has struck the wood of the tree or log with an axe, the wood ‘rings’. Read the rest of this entry